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The Dangers of Vaccination

The purpose of vaccination is to protect your pet from potentially fatal infections by pathogenic (disease-causing) viruses such as distemper, rabies, and others. The way this is done is to inject either a killed virus or a 'modified' (non-pathogenic) live virus, which sensitizes the immune system to that particular virus. Thereafter, if your dog is exposed to, let's say, parvovirus, s/he will be able to respond quickly and vigorously, producing antibodies to overcome the infection.

This sounds like a pretty good plan, on the surface. However, as with any medical procedure, we must ask the simple and direct questions, Is it safe? Is it effective? Do the benefits outweigh the risks?


The Problems with Vaccination

'Routine' vaccination, as it is practiced today, is not always effective (especially in the case of the feline leukemia vaccine), and frequently has adverse side effects, either short term or long term. With the use of multivalent (combination: 3-in-1, 6-in-1, etc.) vaccines that are repeated year after year, the frequency and severity of these side effects in our pets has increased dramatically.

Not surprisingly, most of the problems involve the immune system. After all, the immune system is what vaccines are designed to stimulate. But they do so in a very unnatural way that can overwhelm and confuse the immune system. The body may overreact to normally harmless substances (allergies, especially flea allergies and other skin problems), or even produce antibodies to itself (auto-immune diseases).

At the same time, the body may be sluggish in responding to those things that it should reject, such as common viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites. This can result in increased susceptibility to acute infections (such as parvovirus), chronic or recurring infections (such as ear infections in dogs, bladder infections or feline leukemia in cats), or other chronic problems such as arthritis, kidney disease, or even cancer.

In summary, there is a great deal of evidence implicating vaccination as the cause of many serious chronic health problems. For this reason, I do not recommend vaccination for dogs or cats.

In particular, I strongly recommend against vaccination for Feline Leukemia in cats, because (a) it is not very effective, and (b) I have found that vaccinated cats that subsequently contract the virus are much more likely to die from it. I also recommend against vaccination for Lyme disease and kennel cough in dogs, again due to lack of effectiveness, and the fact that these conditions are generally not very serious. As such, the potential harm of the vaccine is not justified.

In all fairness, the choice to forgo vaccination for your pets does carry some risk. Your puppy could contract parvovirus, for instance, which that particular vaccine is effective in preventing. Fortunately, parvo is generally quite easy to treat homeopathically. Distemper and infectious hepatitis are rarely seen anymore.

Unfortunately, the law now requires rabies vaccination for dogs and cats. This is for reasons of potential human exposure, not for the health of your pet.

You should know, however, that all vaccines, including rabies, are medically approved for use in healthy animals only. This is explicitly stated in the package insert for every vaccine. So if your dog or cat is showing any signs of acute or chronic disease, the manufacturers do not recommend administration of the vaccine.

Finally, for some good news, rabies titers are being increasingly used to demonstrate effective immunity and avoid unnecessary revaccination.

Rabies vaccination should be followed immediately by a single dose of the Lyssin 30C, which is the rabies nosode. This should help to minimize the harmful effects of the vaccine. However, if you see any symptoms or reaction to the rabies vaccination, you should consult a veterinary homeopath for treatment instructions.


Homeopathic Nosodes

As an alternative to vaccination, I sometimes recommend the use of homeopathic nosodes. A nosode is simply a homeopathic remedy that is made from a disease product. Nosodes are not in any way infectious, and can be used to prevent viral infection. Under most circumstances, there is no need for nosodes in adult animals, so their use is generally limited to puppies and kittens. There is, however, a nosode for heartworms, which could be used in adult dogs on an ongoing basis. I will discuss this further in the section on heartworms.


Limitations of Nosodes

There are some limitations to the use of nosodes. The law requires rabies vaccination for dogs and cats. The rabies nosode, Lyssin, will not satisfy that requirement.

Many veterinary offices and kennels insist on current vaccinations, and will not accept nosodes as an alternative. I suggest that you find a local veterinarian that is more open-minded on the topic.

Most important, though, is that although nosodes are a safe and effective alternative to vaccination, their use does not improve your pet's health. They merely cover up a possible susceptibility to a particular pathogen. Constitutional homeopathic treatment is far preferable, when possible, in that it will reduce those susceptibilities at the source by improving the overall health and immune function of your pet. As such, constitutional treatment generally supersedes the administration of nosodes.


If You Choose to Vaccinate...

As I have said, being a veterinary homeopath, I do not recommend routine vaccination for dogs or cats, except for rabies where required by law. If, for whatever reason, you decide that you must vaccinate your pet, I would make the following recommendations to minimize the damage to your pet's health:

  1. Do not vaccinate an animal with symptoms of acute or chronic health problems, or at the time of surgery or other physical or emotional stress.

  2. As much as possible, vaccinate for one disease at a time, and avoid multivalent (combination) vaccines. For cats, vaccinate for feline panleukopenia alone. The vaccines for the two upper respiratory viruses, calicivirus and rhinotracheitis, can be given together. I strongly recommend against vaccination for feline leukemia virus. For dogs, give parvo separately from distemper and hepatitis. Do not vaccinate for leptospirosis or parainfluenza. Never give the rabies vaccine at the same time as any other vaccine.

  3. For adult dogs and cats, vaccinate every 2-3 years, instead of yearly. Better yet, just vaccinate puppies and kittens, and don't vaccinate adults at all (except for rabies, since that is required by law).

  4. After vaccination, give a single dose of the appropriate nosode in the 30C potency.


Acute Homeopathic Treatment

Viral diseases such as feline infectious peritonitis, canine distemper and canine parvovirus are usually not responsive to conventional medical treatment such as antibiotics and steroids. (Supportive care, such as intravenous fluids, can be critically important.) Fortunately, they usually respond very quickly and favorably to homeopathic treatment, so the risk of not vaccinating is greatly lessened.

A second opinion on vaccine protocols by renown veterinarian W. Jean Dodds, DVM, who is an internationally recognized authority on thyroid issues in dogs and blood diseases in animals.  In the mid-1980's she founded Hemopet, the first nonprofit blood bank for animals. Dr. Dodds is a grantee of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, and author of over 150 research publications.  Through Hemopet she provides canine blood components and blood-bank supplies throughout North America, consults in clinical pathology, and lectures worldwide.

Natural Immunity by Pat McKay also covers the issue of vaccinations.


Resources for Conventional Cancer Therapies

The veterinary Cancer Society

The Perseus Foundation

Morris Animal Foundation


More Cancer Resources: Prevention and Treatment

Why is Cancer Killing Our Pets? by Deborah Straw (Healing Arts Press)

Pets Living With Cancer: A Pet Owner's Resource by Robin Downing, DVM (American Animal Hospital Association)


Dealing with Pet Allergies

Food Allergies - Part 1 of a 3 part series

By Jean Hofve, DVM


A Brief Introduction to Allergies

An allergy is an immune system reaction to a specific molecule, which is called an allergen. Most allergens are proteins, but practically anything can become an allergen in any particular animal. In dogs and cats, the most common allergy is to flea bites; followed by "atopy" an allergy to inhaled particles such as pollen, mold, and dust mites.

The medical name for an allergy is a "hypersensitivity reaction." There are four types of hypersensitivity reactions, but most of the allergies our pets are prone to are Type I or "immediate" hypersensitivity. This reaction takes place quickly; usually within minutes, but up to about 12 hours after exposure. An allergy to bee stings or flea bites are classic examples, but food allergies and atopy also fall into this category. Some allergies are very severe and can be life-threatening, though this is rare in pets.

The symptoms of allergies in pets usually appear in either the digestive system (vomiting and/or diarrhea) or the skin (itchiness, redness, lesions, hair loss, ear infections). It can be very difficult to distinguish atopy from food allergies, and some pets have both.

In this article, we'll focus on food allergies; next time, we'll take on atopy (allergy to inhaled substances).


Food Allergy Symptoms

Experts believe that between 10% and 30% of all allergies are to food. Food allergies are much less common than food intolerances. An allergy involves the immune system, while a food intolerance is a simple reaction to a food's ingredients often one or more of the colorings, texturizers, or 25 other categories of allowed pet food additives. Because they involve antibodies and immune-based inflammation, true food allergies are very different from dietary intolerances. However, the symptoms are often the same: vomiting and/or diarrhea. These symptoms may be chronic or intermittent. However, the other major symptoms of food allergy that don't usually occur with food intolerance are skin symptoms: itching, redness, rashes, hair loss, and ear infections. Just to complicate things, these symptoms can also occur with allergies that don't involve food, such as flea bites and pollen, as well as non-allergic conditions. This chart shows the symptoms most often seen with allergies and intolerances.

  Food Allergy Food Intolerance Atopy Flea Allergy
Digestive Symptoms X X    
Skin Symptoms X   X X

Skin symptoms of allergy (referred to as "allergic dermatitis") are frequently complicated and aggravated by secondary infections by yeast or bacteria. Additionally, these symptoms may not be related to food or allergies at all; there are many potential causes of digestive and skin issues. If your pet is having problems, please have your veterinarian take a look.


Differences Between Dogs and Cats

Cats are more apt to have food allergies than dogs. Some dermatologists believe that up to 50% of ear infections in cats are due to food allergies, but only 15% of similar infections in dogs.

Allergies typically develop over time and after multiple exposures to the allergen, although they are occasionally seen in young puppies and kittens, or after only one or two exposures. It's common to think that if a pet has been eating the same food for years, symptoms couldn't be due to allergies. But just the opposite is true: eating the same food over a long period of time is a recipe for allergy development. Not surprisingly, then, the most commonly used pet food ingredients are the ones pets most commonly become allergic to. For instance, meat by-products, liver, and meat-and-bone meal come largely from cattle, so allergies to beef are common.

Pets Most Common Food Allergens
Dogs Beef, chicken, milk, eggs, corn, wheat and soy
Cats Fish, beef, milk and milk products

Pets Most Common Food Allergens Dogs Beef, chicken, milk, eggs, corn, wheat, and soy Cats Fish, beef, milk and milk products Some animals have cross-reacting allergies; that is, if they are allergic to chicken, they are also allergic to turkey, eggs, and other birds; a beef-allergic pet may also react to other cloven-hoofed animals such as bison, venison, or lamb. Pets who have an allergy to one thing are prone to developing more allergies.

Comedian Chris Rock was once talking about friends whose child had food allergies, and asked, "How can anyone be allergic to food?" And that's a good question! All animals must eat to live, so it doesn't exactly make biological sense that the body would reject good nutrition, or react so badly to it.

One way that an ingredient can become an allergen is the heat processing that pet food undergoes during manufacturing. Heat can "denature" proteins, which means that it distorts their shape. Shape is how the immune system tells proteins that belong in the body apart from foreign proteins. When an abnormal protein is picked up by an immune cell, the whole system responds, and antibodies are produced. After that, every time that protein appears, antibodies flock to it and stimulate inflammation. The more damaged proteins, the more inflammation. When the offending allergen is in the pet's everyday diet, the situation can become quite severe and uncomfortable for your companion.

The very fact that this reaction takes place at the lining of the gut causes changes in the lining itself. Swelling and inflammation cause the normally tight barrier of gut lining cells to become "leaky." This "leaky gut" will absorb more things it shouldn't, causing the reaction to move into the bloodstream, where it can cause inflammation elsewhere, notably the skin.


How Diet Changes and Supplements Can Help a Pet With Allergies

Fortunately, both food allergies and food intolerances respond to dietary therapy. This may be as simple as changing brands, since each manufacturer uses its own proprietary formulas and ingredients. Many food intolerances will disappear with any new food.

Allergies are harder to deal with, but the treatment for food allergies also happens to be one of the simplest ways to diagnose them. Changing your pet's diet to a "novel ingredient" diet, also sometimes called a "hypo-allergenic" diet, allows the immune system to settle down and the inflammation to resolve. The new diet should contain protein and carbohydrate sources that the animal has not had before. Here's how to do a diet trial for food allergies:

  1. Choose a food that does not contain the same ingredients that were in the food your pet was eating when the allergy began. There are several ways to go:

    • Often, it's best to start with a very simple home-cooked diet, such as plain turkey and white rice. For the short period of a food trial, it's usually safe to skip supplements; a deficiency is unlikely to occur that quickly. However, work with your veterinarian to make sure your pet's unique nutritional needs are met during this time.

    • Use one of the many ready-made commercial pet foods that can be used for a novel ingredient diet. Choose an unusual protein such as rabbit, bison, and duck, with a carbohydrates like sweet potatoes, brown rice, and green peas. There are veterinary diets for this purpose, but their ingredients tend to be poorer quality than a good natural food brand.

    • Change food forms, i.e., from dry to canned. There have been cases where an animal who reacts to a dry food does fine with the same brand's canned version. Canned foods are processed at lower temperatures, and may be less allergenic.

    • Consider a raw diet. As with dry and canned foods, sometimes animals who are allergic to an ingredient in a processed pet food will readily tolerate the same ingredient in its raw form. However, in pets with leaky gut syndrome, the natural bacteria in raw meat may be a risk. You can lightly cook the food for a while until the gut has healed.

  2. In most cases, it's best to switch diets gradually over a week or two. Cats are notoriously finicky, and it may take even longer for them. If your pet is willing to eat the new food right away, you can make the change faster, but be aware that digestive symptoms could get worse at first, because the gut has not had time to adjust.

  3. Feed exclusively the new food for at least 8 weeks. No cheating or table scraps, no treats. Giving anything but the new diet will put you back to square one, and you'll have to start the 8 weeks all over again.

    • When the symptoms are all gut-related (vomiting, diarrhea), improvement may be quite fast.

    • Skin symptoms may take up to 12 weeks to resolve, but there should be at least noticeable improvement within about 8 weeks.

  4. If the symptoms arenâ't changing at all, you may need to switch to a different diet. Remember that allergies can cross-react, and that your pet may be allergic to more than one ingredient.

There are also several supplements that can be very helpful for allergies. These can be

  1. Digestive Enzymes help break food down into smaller particles, which will be less reactive in the gut. They also help "clean up" areas of inflammation.

  2. Probiotics are "friendly bacteria" that are important for gut function and health of the cells that line the digestive tract. They also have some anti-inflammatory properties.

  3. Omega-3 Fatty Acids (fish oil, cod liver oil). These essential fats are strong anti-inflammatories, and are also important for skin health. It's an interesting phenomenon that even pets who aren't food allergic, often respond to a diet trial. The problem may actually be atopy, asthma, or any number of other inflammatory conditions. Simplifying the diet reduces the total number of allergens a pet is exposed, and that seems to help many non-allergic conditions, as well as allergies other than food.

  4. Remember that allergic pets tend to develop more allergies including to new foods. Lamb and rice was once a popular combination for allergic pets, but after eating it over a long period of time, many pets became allergic to lamb, too. If your pet is prone to developing allergies, it's wise to switch foods (to different protein and carbohydrate sources) every 3 or 4 months to prevent future problems.

Next month we'll delve into that most frustrating topic of inhalant allergies (atopy).


Other Resources for Pet Allergies

Pet Allergies:Remedies for an Epidemic by Alfred Plechner,D.V.M. and Martin Zucker

Nambudripad's Allergy Elimination Techniques (NAET) is an allergy-elimination system created by Devi S. Nambudripad, a medical doctor from Buena Park, California, who is also an acupuncturist, chiropractor and kinesiologist. For more information go to


Pet Loss Resources

Pet Loss Support Pace includes a state-by-state directory of animal-loss resources.

Cornell University Pet Support Hotline



Information sources for the BARF Diet (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food):

The BARF Diet: Raw Feeding Using Evolutionary Principles is an updated book by raw-feeding guru Ian Billinghurst. Also by Billinghurst: Give Your Dog a Bone and Grow Your Pups With Bones.


Resources for Kibble

If you have decided that your lifestyle and budget compel you to continue to feed kibble, your work has just begun. There are many brands of dog food, all claiming to be the best. One cyber-source for label comparison is the popular and long-lived, which lists the ingredients of many brands.

Another ongoing source of information about canine nutrition is the Whole Dog Journal at You can research and order back articles, including commercial food reviews and the magazine's recommendations for dry and wet dog foods.

The ominously titled Food Pets Die For by Ann N. Martin is a no-holds-barred look at how commercial food is manufactured. It also offers some recipes for a home-cooked diet for dogs. The author does not support raw feeding.


Holistic Resources

Natural Health Bible for Dogs & Cats: You're a-Z Guide to Over 200 Conditions, Herbs, Vitamins, and Supplements by Shawn Messonnier.

Dr. Pitcairn's Complete Guide To Natural Health For Dogs & Cats by Richard H. Pitcairn, D.V.M. , Ph. D. & Susan Hubble Pitcairn and

The Nature of Animal Healing by Martin Goldstein, D.V.M.

Veterinary Botanical Medicine Association

The Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy


Dog Training

What All Good Dogs Should Know by Jack Volhard is an excellent resource on training. Publications and videos on training dogs can be obtained through Top Gun Training School, 30 Besaw Rd., Phoenix, NY 13135 or


Clicker training: Positive reinforcement.

"Clicker training really isn't a training method. What it is, is a communication system that works in both directions," says Karen Pryor, whose work with dolphins started her on a career as one of the world's most famous clicker trainers. "The dog realizes right away that what he is doing makes you click. This is exciting for the dog. Instead of being knocked around by his environment and the world, he has some control. The dog is in charge of whatâ's happening. He likes this-we all do." Clicker training literally has you accentuate the positive.  For more information go to, or purchase a book by a clicker trainer.


Clicker training resources

Don't Shoot The Dog! By Karen Pryor is considered a classic by the clicker training queen. Click to Win: For the Show Ring, also by Pryor, covers all the nuances of the show ring.

Clicking With Your Dog by Peggy Tillman is a step-by-step guide to more than 100 clicker-trained behaviors, from "Don't jump on guests" to "Pick up your toys."

Clicker Training for Obedience by Morgan Spector is very much geared to those who want to do competitive Obedience. This book breaks each exercise down into exhaustive detail and explains how to use a clicker to achieve it. by Chet Womach is another excellent resource for dog training principals and assistance in video, CD and book form.

Good Life Goldens
We are a small North Carolina breeder of exceptional Golden Retrievers. Our main goal is to achieve, by selective breeding, Goldens that possess the soundness, natural ability and temperament that is reflected in the Golden Retriever Breed Standard. Our puppies are raised and loved in our home, not a kennel. Health is guaranteed. They are AKC registered, champion sired, veterinarian inspected and monitored, vaccinated, dewormed, well socialized and “prepared” for their forever homes. They are loving pet companions, and genetically appropriate as Therapy Dogs, Show prospects, Obedience, Tracking or Agility competitors.